Question:

I'm having difficulty understanding detachment, specifically relating to my children. I want to rid myself of material and emotional attachments but I have (as we all do) a deep bond and love for my children. I really want to understand.

Answer:

The concept of detachment has been grossly misunderstood in modern spiritual thinking. As your question indicates, people often believe it is about withdrawing one’s bonds of affection, passion and feeling for those we have previously loved and cared for. In this view, spiritual growth means being aloof and disinterested in the normal exchange of human emotion. This is a tragic misunderstanding of what detachment really is.

As self-awareness grows within, through one’s spiritual practice, the true presence of the Self becomes awake and self-luminous. A sense of inner wakefulness becomes a permanent presence that is independent of the specific thoughts, feelings or actions that one may be engaged in. This presence of the higher Self is called the silent witness, because it is a state of consciousness that is present along with the relative experience one is having, but the experience no longer overshadows or overthrows the experience of the Self. The relationship of that awakened state of consciousness with the outer world has been described as a state of detachment. That is true in the sense that one’s identity is no longer attached to one’s feelings and actions, but it is not at all the case that the self-realized person doesn’t love, laugh, or feel sad in the course of their human relationships. An enlightened mother is still going to love, cherish and dote on her children, the same way any mother would. But the difference that is imperceptible to others is that there is an awakened awareness within that her true Self is not her feelings and thoughts, but rather pure, unlimited consciousness.

This is why in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says there are no outer signs of enlightenment. Two mothers can display the exact same external loving behavior with their children, and one of them could be self-realized and the other not. So don’t think that you have to give up your bonds of love with your children to become enlightened. In fact trying to shut off one’s natural feelings can only impede your development. Just continue your meditation practice and follow the natural flow of your heart, and the awakening of the silent witness will take care of itself.

Love,
Deepak

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